So this is the post where I usually select and preview my next read, but I thought it would be fun to let you guys weigh in this time.
This current batch of five novels includes The Confessions of Nat Turner and Lucky Jim (both already read), plus Housekeeping, Naked Lunch, and A House for Mr. Biswas (none of which have been read).
So I want you to help me pick which of those three novels I should read next. As a refresher, here’s how I described them in my “next 5 novels” post: Read more
Take it away, Lucky Jim.
Dixon was alive again. Consciousness was upon him before he could get out of the way; not for him the slow, gracious wandering from the halls of sleep, but a summary, forcible ejection. He lay sprawled, too wicked to move, spewed up like a broken spider-crab on the tarry shingle of the morning. The light did him harm, but not as much as looking at things did; he resolved, having done it once, never to move his eyeballs again. A dusty thudding in his head made the scene before him beat like a pulse. His mouth has been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum. During the night, too, he’d somehow been on a cross-country run and then been expertly beaten up by a secret police. He felt bad.
How brilliant is that?
The description of his mouth might be my favorite part. But I also love the close. “He felt bad.” Just a perfect, perfect description.
Lucky Jim is taking me longer than I’d like, but that doesn’t have anything to do with the quality of the novel. I’m enjoying it. This season is a little busier so I’m just not getting as much reading done as I want to.
Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan.
Lucky Jim is a novel full of beautiful awkwardness.
Amis’s style and tone remind me of Anthony Powell’s writing in A Dance To The Music Of Time.
You might recall I absolutely loathed that novel—it’s last in my rankings. But though Lucky Jim reminds me of Dance in some regards, it’s a much more humorous, entertaining, developed novel—at least to this point.
But back to the awkwardness. I can think of nothing more awkward than being invited to a dinner party full of college history professors and being asked to gather around a piano and sing together. For fun.
That’s exactly what happens to Jim Dixon. His mentor, Professor Welsh, invites him over for a party and some impromptu singing breaks out. Read more
The introduction to Lucky Jim contains this little nugget that might interest you if you’re a literature nerd like myself.
Kingsley Amis, who wrote Lucky Jim, went to Oxford with his friend and fellow writer, Philip Larkin. The Jim character was actually based on a hybrid of the two friends.
Anyway, as you might know, J.R.R. Tolkien taught at Oxford. And, as luck would have it, Amis and Larkin took one of his classes. The intro concludes with this little nugget about Tolkien’s teaching style: Read more
The Confessions of Nat Turner is a heavy novel.
But one of William Styron’s strengths is balancing that heaviness with light humor or just observations on the normal day-to-day lives of slaves in the 1800s.
Styron uses flashbacks to show how some events—such as Nat Turner witnessing his mother getting raped by a plantation manager —affected him throughout his life. He shows Nat’s desire to educate himself, despite the enormous obstacles in his way.
Even as a child, Nat Turner was extremely smart, risking a lot for a small pleasure so many of us take for granted—just the opportunity to “read” a book. Read more
I’ve got to admit that I really like Appointment in Samarra.
Knowing very little about the novel before I started, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoy O’Hara’s writing style, as well as the story.
If you enjoy a novel based on what’s essentially small-town gossip among a bunch of country clubbers, then you’ll probably appreciate Appointment in Samarra.
Here’s how O’Hara describes how his main character, Julian English, met his wife. Read more